Imagine in 1900 stuck between all the Roman buildings by all the emperors, they discovered a church covered from floor to ceiling with frescoes. Though not done at the same time, one can see the changing in styles. Its been recently restored and opened to the public. It is inside the Roman Forum complex, just next to it at the far end. It is so spectacular. I came to Rome just to see it. Well, not really, I'm heading to Norcia tomorrow for another spectacular sight.
Completed in 2012 for the London Olympics, it is now one giant park and is absolutely stunning. There are wild flower meadows everywhere, a canal with water plants and fowl. There are lots of activities for people of all ages. Its spectacular. One can spend a whole day here. Stratford is a minute train ride out of St Pancras in London.
This is by far the quirkiest place. Somewhere along the river Thames are a bunch of decommissioned bags that are rented to people to live in. Someone came along with the idea to make the pathways joining the barges into a garden. Its not opened all the time but I stayed in town today just so to see it. Wow, it was great. One of the barges was turned into a tea room and I had tea and cake there and the whole place was rocking because it is floating on the river Thames.
This garden predates Kew garden. It was started by the society of apothecaries who needed to grow medicinal plants for their trade. It was a really nice way to spend a few hours away from the frenetic clamor of London. This is in the middle of London, all walled off and in an atmosphere of its own.
Great Dixter is a truly great garden. They say if you can only see one English country garden, make it Great Dixter and I totally agree. It has a style all of its own. Daisy Lloyd, wife of Nathaniel Lloyd loved wild meadows and at Great Dixter one will see a lot of wild patches. At the entrance you will be greeted by this beautiful patch of wild meadow on both sides of the path leading to the front of the house. When I saw it, I knew, this was what I came for, wild flower meadows. The garden surrounds the house and is filled in with all sorts of annuals with narrow paths round them so visitors can walk all round. The property was later left to the youngest son, Christopher Lloyd who, if you visited before his death in 2006, can be found working in the garden.
It is such a delightful place. It is the most photogenic place in the world and I've been to many places. More pictures when I get home. I had a coffee and a slice of beetroot and raisin cake. It was very good. I must try to make it when I get home. Then I walked back, along the river Thames to Richmond town centre and the tube station. Since it was quite early yet, I decided to stop at Leicester square to go to Charing Cross Road. I had to go to Foyles bookstore. No trip to London is ever complete without a trip to Foyles. Its the best bookstore in the world for English books.
It wasn't that impressive. I took the tube to Richmond and then a bus to ham street when I walked the 1/3 mile to Ham house. It was supposed to be bijou palace and supposed to have a sumptuous garden. It was too early and everything was still in buds. I had some lunch and left but its location can't be beat. Its very close to Hampton court where the king of England used to live. Ham house was occupied by the Murray family who were very close to King Charles and was given Ham house by the king. I asked for directions to the Thames river and walked along Thames path to my next destination which was 20 minutes away, Petersham nurseries!
I'm in London and today I was at the Chelsea flower show. I arrived yesterday and went straight to the British museum because there is a special exhibit about 'sunken cities'. There are 3 cities near Alexandria, Egypt that were built by the Greeks. Because the earth at the Nile delta is not stable, these 3 cities became submerged. Now excavation hs brought up on shore tremendous amount of statures and other ancient relics and is on loan to the British museum. It is a spectacular exhibit. And today I spent the whole day at the Chelsea flower show. Its a once in a lifetime deal, very impressive. It was crowded in the afternoon when ticket prices gets discounted. One can trust the Brits for putting up a great flower show.
No trip to Tokyo is complete without a trip to Ginza. It is the most fancy area of Tokyo where all the luxury shops are. It is very beautiful. I see the rich residents of Tokyo shopping. How do I know? They have fancy cars that pick them and their packages up! They go into shops and come out with packages. The rest of us are just there to ogle.
It wasn't as crowded as I feared on the trains and metro around town but Tokyo has the craziest transit system. It is a maze of lines going every which way and crossing each other. Every worker seems to be dressed in dark blue suits, both male and female. School kids are also dressed in dark blue suits.
It is a market not just for seafood but also for produce. It starts very early in the morning and goes on all day long. One can almost eat every kind of seafood. I had some crab roe and this grilled whelk. It was a lot of fun though quite expensive.
These are master fish handler and its easy when you have the right tools, whether it be a very sharp knife or a huge variety of seafood. The Tsukiji market is a must see even though you miss the very early morning auction. Its not just a fish market, it is a market for everything. Producers of foodstuff bring their wares here to be distributed to the rest of Japan. So one can find anything in season here. Its busy because of locals and visitors.
There are all kinds of food in Japan. I didn't have enough time to try the full range of food. Of course there is the proverbial ramen. Even the humble ramen has been elevated into some gourmet status but little mom and pop stalls still sell the very basic and can be very cheap. Eating in Japan can be very economical. I was under the impression that its expensive to travel in Japan. Like any other country there are the expensive luxury places to eat and stay and there are the economical places to stay and eat. I ate the ramen at some stall in an alley, away from the tourists, just the locals and a few savvy travelers like me. I think I paid USD7 for this meal. It was too much to eat. I came back the next evening and ate less. I had lunch at a Muji cafe. Muji is a chain store in Japan and is expanding to the the USA. Some of their stores has restaurants. This was a very simple and delicious meal, costs a little more, I think, it was USD13. The little brown bowl had multi grain rice, very nice. There was a bakery in Ginza and I munched on this baguette. I told this French guy seated next to me, 'its as good as in France!' to which he replied in a very French accent, 'impossible!' Unless its very touristy, it was very economical travel, just eat where the locals eat, a beef bowl with rice and cabbage costs USD5 which was what I ate towards the last 3 days of my trip, together with a lot of local men who just finished work.
OR YOU CAN SIT DOWN TO SOME ICE TEA AND CAKE AND WATCH THE ACTION FROM ABOVE. Here I'm sitting at L'occitane cafe on the third floor and looking down at the action below as people crossed the streets. One guidebook recommended even going higher to the Hikarie building. I did go there but it was too far to be any good. This was the best vantage point and oh so comfortable.